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Franklin's Gull


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A small, black-headed gull of the prairies, the Franklin's Gull is a common sight in the interior of North America, following plows to eat exposed worms, insects, and mice.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
12.6–14.2 in
32–36 cm
33.5–37.4 in
85–95 cm
7.8–11.8 oz
220–335 g
Other Names
  • Mouette de Franklin (French)
  • Gaviota de Franklin, Gaviotin, Caguil, Caulle, Fardella (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Franklin's Gull is unique among gulls in having two complete molts each year rather than one.
  • The floating nest of the Franklin's Gull gradually sinks as the material below the water surface decays, and it requires continual maintenance. Both parents add new nest material daily until one or two weeks before departing the colony. Older chicks also add nest material from the immediate vicinity of the nest.
  • In breeding plumage, and sometimes in nonbreeding plumage as well, the Franklin's Gull often shows a rosy pink cast (rarely salmon) on its chest and abdomen. This color is most apparent on the shafts and bases of its feathers. The color fades as the breeding season progresses as the pigment is broken down by sunlight.
  • The oldest recorded Franklin's Gull was at least 9 years, 5 months old when it was shot in Montana in 1972. It had been banded in the same state in 1963.



Nests in marshes and along inland lakes. Winters along coast in bays, estuaries, and along sandy beaches.



Insects, earthworms, fish, mice, garbage, seeds.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–4 eggs
Egg Description
Greenish brown with dark splotches.
Condition at Hatching
Semiprecocial with eyes open. Covered in down. Able to stand within a day, but usually remain in nest for three weeks.
Nest Description

A floating platform of vegetation, placed in thick reeds above water. Nests in colonies.

Nest Placement



Ground Forager

Forages while walking or swimming. Forages in dense flocks. Follows plows. Catches flying insects on the wing.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Franklin's Gull populations declined throughout their range by almost 3% per year between 1966 and 2015, resulting in a cumulative decline of 78% according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. In the U.S., declines were over 6% per year during that same period, which amounts to a 96% decline. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates between 315,608-990,864 continental breeding birds and lists it as a Species of Moderate Concern. The species rates an 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Franklin's Gull is listed as Common Bird in Steep Decline on the 2014 State of the Birds Report, but is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List. These birds depend on extensive prairie marshes for breeding, and entire colonies may shift sites from year to year depending on water levels. Once threatened by habitat loss due to large-scale drainage projects and the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, this species has regained numbers with the creation of large wetlands, mainly on protected national wildlife refuges. Colony shifts continue to occur, however, influenced by drought and fluctuating water levels.


Range Map Help

View dynamic map of eBird sightings

You Might Also Like

The 2015 Franklin’s Gull Fallout In Eastern North America, eBird, November 13, 2015.

A Noble Vision of Gulls, Living Bird, Summer 2016.



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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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